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Report on Quetta carnage puts doctors under the microscope

ISLAMABAD: The report of the Justice Qazi Faez Isa inquiry commission into the Aug 8 carnage in Quetta has also touched upon the callous disregard for human life by doctors and paramedical staff .

The commission regretted that the absence of doctors and other staff of the Sandeman Provincial Hospital, where the suicide bomber had struck, contributed to the misery of the victims, some of whom undoubtedly died for not receiving timely treatment.

In its 110-page report, the one-man commission cited testimonies by lawyers to establish that apart from one notable exception, doctors and other staff of the hospital did not render medical or any other assistance to those lying wounded at the blast site. Since the blast occurred inside the hospital’s premises, the absence of doctors and others is inexplicable.

On Oct 6, the Supreme Court had appointed Justice Qazi Faez Isa of the Supreme Court to head a judicial commission entrusted with investigating the Aug 8 suicide attack at Quetta’s Sandeman Hospital. The attack claimed at least 74 lives, including lawyers.

The report, which can be termed an indictment of the provincial health care system, had a word of praise for a gynecologist, Dr Shehla Sami, nevertheless. Dr Sami ran towards the scene of the explosion at a time when everyone else was running away from it. She provided first aid to the injured and it is reasonable to assume that she saved quite a few lives, the report observed.

Dr Sami’s motivation and dedication were expected from every doctor at the hospital, but sadly this was not the case, said the report.
Misery of victims

If this is the calibre of doctors graduating from Quetta’s Bolan Medical College, one can only pity the people they are supposed to serve and who pay for their services, the commission lamented. The absence of doctors contributed to the misery of the victims, some of whom undoubtedly lost their lives because they did not get timely treatment.

The commission also touched upon the ordeal patients had to suffer when very important persons (VIPs) started visiting the injured. But before their scheduled visits, the hospital was subjected to thorough security sweeps and if the individual happened to be the prime minister or the army chief, the sweep meant that the operation theaters had to be searched by security personnel and bomb disposal experts.

But the individuals seldom put on sterilised aprons and slippers, the commission regretted.

The report dwelt upon the use of mobile jamming devices before, and during, every VIP visit to the hospital. These devices accompanied VIPs everywhere, obstructing cellular telephone signals. People were unable to get in touch with the hospital and even doctors could not speak to each other during emergencies.

During such visits even doctors are barred from entering different sections of a hospital. Such visits disrupt the working of hospitals and expose patients to avoidable risks.

While it is commendable that important personages want to express their concern and show solidarity with the victims, this need not be done by visiting the injured in hospitals immediately after an emergency and that too in the company of a large number of security personnel and intrusive media because the hospital’s working is affected, the commission observed.

The commission went on to say that the visit of the then army chief and subsequent lockdown of the cantonment area disrupted access to the Combined Military Hospital, recalling that two anaesthetists could not get to the CMH in time.

The injured and their treatment deserved priority over everybody and everything else. Unfortunately, the report commented, an ingrained VIP culture is not sensitive to such needs.

The commission’s report was also bitter about the treatment of the injured at the Combined Military Hospital after they were transferred there. Entry to the CMH, which is located at a good distance from the Sandeman Hospital, was restricted as it lies within the cantonment area.

The Sandeman Hospital’s medical superintendent (MS), the provincial health secretary and other government officials conceded that the shifting of the injured to the CMH resulted in avoidable loss of life. Instead, the injured should have been taken to the Bolan Medical College Hospital or to the Khalifa Shaikh Ziyad hospital as both of them had many more operating theatres than CMH.

Highly distressed civilians at the blast site who had seen their colleagues dying in front of them or severely injured were left to make decisions regarding an appropriate place of treatment when this ought to have been done by doctors or at least by nurses and other paramedics. Unfortunately, they were nowhere to be found, the commission regretted.

It also regretted that witnesses testified before the commission that the injured were not attended to promptly at the CMH and some even alleged gross negligence by CMH staff.

The witnesses testified that the endotracheal tube inserted into the neck of Advocate Ghani Jan Agha, who had undergone tracheotomy, was removed for no reason at CMH. This caused his death, the commission said.
Hospital’s condition

Reverting to the Sandeman Hospital, the commission said it was unprepared for an Aug 8-like calamity, citing the shortage of even stretchers. Heavy beds from wards were dragged out by volunteers and more than one injured was placed on them.

Certain injuries have to be attended to immediately to save lives, but the lack of stretchers was probably a major factor in some lives being lost. There were also no first aid kits or bags containing minimal essential medicines and bandages, either in the casualty or anywhere else in the hospital, the commission noted. A doctor, nurse, or even a paramedic could have rushed to the blast site with these kits providing a few additional crucial moments of life to an injured till he could be taken to a ward or operation theatre.

Likewise, the hospital lacked fire-fighting equipment. The fact that there have been a number of attacks in the hospital made this lack of preparedness incomprehensible, the report said.

It deplored that a very large number of doctors, nurses, dispensers and paramedics who ought to have been on duty in the morning shift on Aug 8 were absent without explanation.

It appeared the provincial government abdicated its responsibility and surrendered itself to the dictates of the doctors and paramedics associations operating in the hospital, the commission regretted.

courtesy : dawn news

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